Category Archives: Preserving

Whether it be through canning, freezing, or drying, as a wise steward of the abundance God has given us, we are learning to preserve the harvest for more barren months

An Iceberg

On this frigid January day, with temps in the teens and a negative wind chill, we have descended into the yawning chasm of our basement…

…to tackle this iceberg inside of our house:

A long overdue freezer defrost is finally underway!

More Canning!

We’ve had a very interesting gardening year! One of the more amusing incidents has to do with hot peppers, Yellow Hungarian Wax peppers specifically.

At the beginning of the year as we were going through our seed collection, Lady L noticed that most of our hot pepper seeds were a few years old. We’ve had problems with germination on seeds this old in the past, and weren’t sure how they’d do this year, and then also, if we didn’t use them all, if they’d even be worth trying next year. So she and Daddy came to the conclusion that we should just plant all our remaining hot pepper seeds. No one bothered to count how many little seeds were actually in those poor flimsy paper packages. They just started planting.

Lady L started feeling a bit of mis-giving when the seeds didn’t seem to stop coming, and the pots full of dirt and seeds kept piling up. But hey, we could always sell some extra peppers, or even give some plants away, or whatever, right? Besides, the germination rate should be in the 50% range! We had Jalapeno, Anaheim, Pablano, Cayenne, and those lovely Hungarian Wax peppers. When the seeds finally sprouted, the grand total count came to 109 plants. And we decided to keep them all.

But I’m a little off-topic – this was supposed to be about canning. Of all the pepper varieties, the Hungarian Wax did the best. That’s probably an understatement. They did TREMENDOUSLY well and were beautiful with all the shining peppers pointing their tips towards the sky. We decided to make hot pepper rings with our crop, and they turned out amazingly well and delicious. Our family has already eaten into the second jar of them!

At the same time we made pizza sauce with our own garden tomatoes, awaiting some cooler weather before the actual pizzas are made.

Aren’t the labels adorable? And there is no stickiness left on the jar when you remove the labels! Yay! Here’s where Lady L found them, via Pinterest of course. 😉 BUT I’ll not digress and gush over how I love using Pinterest to find things.

In current canning news, the last few days have been spent making 11 pints of pasta sauce, and preparing 24 pounds of tomatoes by washing, skinning, and chopping them, for 38 cups of sauce, or 19 more pints. A post on that should show up soon!

“Homesteading” Updates

According to author John Seymour, “urban homesteading” incorporates small-scale, sustainable agriculture and homemaking. (from Wikipedia)

I put homesteading in quotes because I feel like we’re really just taking a stab at it, and that only in what limited capacity we are able to with a small town lot. But for what it’s worth, here are our homesteading attempts.

Pickles and Green Tomato… uh, stuff

An adventure in canning! Lady L really wanted to make pickles this year, so she planted pickling cucumbers in the Spring, but we haven’t gotten enough at any one time to warrant canning. So we picked up some pickling cucumbers at our produce market for only $1 a bag. Amanda and Lady L used a short brine, and canned them the next day. Now we’re waiting for them to “age”… “ripen”… (whatever they’re supposed to do!)… before we try them.

At the same time, Daddy brought home some green tomatoes that had fallen from his boss’s plants. For the past two years, a guy that Daddy works with has given him a jar of cold-packed green tomato pickles that he and his wife make. Daddy and Lady L love them! Daddy wrote down the “instructions” but 1) it isn’t making much sense a year later! and 2) they really did want to can them, instead of cold-pack. So Lady L found a different recipe to try. Amanda and Lady L did these “Pickled Green Tomatoes” at the same time as the regular pickles, since everything would already be out. Unfortunately, you have to cook tomatoes to water-bath can, and the end result was something akin to sweet-and-sour-green-tomato-marmalade-relish. Oh, well. Some people like it for what it is and it won’t be wasted. Lesson learned: green tomato pickles need to be cold-packed.

(I’m afraid it was a busy two days and I only got a few pictures!)

The green tomatoes and onions ready to be salted.

A lot of salt!

Pickles on the left, and Green Tomato stuff on the right

Blanching Kale

We like Kale… but mostly in soups. And this is August. Ugghh! So we blanch the majority of our Kale and freeze it for winter. Once again Amanda and Lady L were on preservation duty, and picked LOADS of fresh Kale and then blanched it down to two freezer bags (a.k.a two batches of soup). It was kind of deflating. The conclusion of the day was that they should do it in larger batches!

My sweet, smiling, busy sisters! *happy sigh*

Bare stem, leafy green, and stainless steel.

Washed, cut, and ready for the boiling water

After boiling, plunged into ice water to arrest the enzyme things happening

From the ice water to the drying towels

The magic of a straw + lung capacity + zip-seal bag. Who needs a machine?!

“Only two of these!”

Bulk Grain and Honey

Fresh flour. What can beat it?! We have a grain mill, but have been struggling to find grain at a good price. We finally ordered from Wheat Montana with a co-op about an hour away. However, it wasn’t the best experience, and we hope to get our own group of people together to order in a few months.

Along the same lines, we found a good source for local, raw, organic-ish, wildflower honey. We order in bulk and get wholesale prices. It’s too delicious to speak of! 😀 I even use it in my coffee, something I had tried before and not liked. But the honey from this farm is truly my favorite out of all the ones that I’ve ever had.

Rolled Oats, Spelt, Hard White Wheat, and Soft White Wheat

A 5lb container of “liquid gold”

Sidewalk Container Gardening

And finally, I tried something new this year in gardening. I’m not typically too involved in the gardening (besides the weeding and cooking aspects!), but I really wanted to use our space more efficiently for growing food. I thought edible landscaping was a cool idea, but we don’t have landscaping. We have sidewalks. We do however put decorative flower pots on the sidewalk in front of our house each year. So the obvious connection was edible sidewalk “flower-pots.” Below are the results. I now know NOT to use mint, and to give the squash a little more soil room as well as padding under the stem on the pot edge.

Front to back: Yellow Squash, Green Chard, Celery, Purple Basil, Chocolate Mint, and Kale

At the front of the house… they DID look better in the beginning of Summer

Hold Your Bananas!!!

A little over a week ago, on Saturday, we went to a local produce market, and while we were there, we saw that they were selling bags of bruised and overripe bananas for only a dollar a bag! It was an amazing price, and we picked up two bags, with visions of banana bread and banana cookies dancing through our minds. The plan was to make the bread that day, but after going to two book sales, we decided it was a bad idea. So now the question was what to do with all these bananas since they would not last until Monday. Freezing them seemed like the best option, so I hopped on Google to find out what the best way would be. As it turns out, there really isn’t any one way that works best. You can either  freeze them with the peel on, with it off, cut up, or mashed! We chose to peel and freeze them.

First, you need bananas.  As you can see, ours were quite bruised. 😐

Peel them, and place on wax paper covered trays so that they are not touching. Put them in the freezer over night, or until frozen. Freezing them on trays will keep them from freezing together into one big chunk in the bag.

Once they are frozen, put them into freezer bags. Next time you have a recipe that calls for bananas, pull out however many you need, thaw them, and enjoy!

We’ll post what we make with them when the time comes!